|Publication number||US7797764 B2|
|Application number||US 11/076,651|
|Publication date||Sep 21, 2010|
|Priority date||Mar 10, 2005|
|Also published as||US20100031409|
|Publication number||076651, 11076651, US 7797764 B2, US 7797764B2, US-B2-7797764, US7797764 B2, US7797764B2|
|Inventors||Richard G Norris|
|Original Assignee||Richard G Norris|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (17), Referenced by (13), Classifications (9), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This invention generally relates to helmets and other head gear for providing ballistic protection to a wearer.
A modem military helmet for use by infantry troops is illustrated in
Modem helmets provide little or no protection for the sides 14 and nape 12 of the neck. Further, body armor worn by some troops to provide ballistic protection to the torso does not extend upwardly to cover the neck. Helmets can and have been produced that provide greater neck protection by extending the length of the back and sides of the helmet; however, this severely reduces the head mobility of the user, particularly his ability to tilt his head to the side or rearwardly. Firing a weapon in the prone position would be difficult if not impossible as the extended back side would either prevent the wearer from tilting his head up or cause the helmet to be shifted over his eyes hindering his view of the battlefield. Further, such an extended helmet would not permit the wearer to look skyward to watch for threats from above. Accordingly, helmets having extended side and rear portions are not used by modem military troops. Simply, the limitations to head mobility have been determined to be such a hindrance and detriment to a soldier as to outweigh the benefits of providing additional ballistic protection to the soldier's neck.
Several improvements to the military helmet have been proposed to provide additional protection to the lower portion of a wearer's head and the wearer's neck as indicated in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,046,560, 2,888,681 and 3,436,760. Further, non-military helmets for vocational and recreational activities have been proposed to provide additional protection to the neck and lower back portions of the head as indicated in U.S. Pat. No. 3,873,997.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,046,560 describes an armored curtain that extends from the brim to protect the wearer's neck. Preferably, the curtain portion is substantially stiff to provide ballistic protection, but it is attached to the helmet flexibly by the way of fabric material to allow the curtain to move upwardly, such as when a wearer assumes a prone position (see
U.S. Pat. No. 2,888,681 describes a helmet having a neck and ear shield that is coupled to the helmet body by pivotal connections located directly above a wearer's ear. The extension will tilt upwardly if the wearer tilts his head back but it will not retract upwardly if the wearer moves his head to the side. A flange 19 is provided to prevent the unintended downwardly movement of the extension beyond its fully extended position. It is noted that even with the neck and ear shield, the amount of protection offered by this helmet is similar to the standard issue military helmet. It is appreciated that this helmet's general design could be modified to provide additional neck protection but such a modification would hinder the ability of a wearer to move his head side to side even more.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,436,760 describes an extension to a steel helmet that comprises fiberglass or some other suitable ballistic material and hangs beneath the brim of the helmet to protect the back and sides of the wearer's neck. The extension, however, is not designed to move upwardly such as when the wearer assumes a prone position. Rather, the extension flares outwardly and its bottom edge curves upwardly along its backside to provide the wearer with the ability to tilt his head somewhat. While providing additional ballistic protection over a standard military helmet, it still leaves a significant portion of the nape of the neck exposed when the wearer is in an upright position as is necessitated to permit the wearer to assume a prone combat position. Additionally, the side portions of the extension hinder the ability of a wearer to freely tilt his head to either side.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,873,997 describes a helmet having an extension offering supplemental protection to the lower portion of the back of the head and the upper portion of the nape of the neck, although this helmet is not intended for military use but rather for sports or industrial protection. The extension is designed to move upwardly when the wearer moves his/her head rearwardly by rotating about pivot 16, but it does not appear to be capable of moving upwardly when a wearer tilts his/her head to the side. Further, the length of the extension does not appear to be as substantial providing no more protection than a standard issue military infantry helmet.
One embodiment of the present invention comprises a helmet extension that can be retrofitted to a modem military helmet for providing additional ballistic protection for a wearer's nape of the neck and the lower portion of the back of the head. Another embodiment of the present invention comprises a helmet incorporating the extension. The extension, which is generally U-shaped, is substantially rigid being typically comprised of the same Kevlar™-based composite material as the helmet. In its normal position, the extension overlaps the rim of the helmet at its back and sides and extends downwardly therefrom a sufficient distance to provide effective protection of the back and sides of the wearer's neck when the wearer is in an upright standing position. Proximate the bottom rim of the extension, the extension flares outwardly somewhat.
The extension is coupled to the helmet using a plurality of generally flexible high tensile strength straps or cables that are resistant to elastic or plastic elongation. In one variation, the straps are comprised of a woven Kevlar™ material that unlike the helmet and extension composite has not been impregnated with a rigid polymeric material. One end of each of the straps is attached to the helmet at various locations around the sides and back of the helmet at a distance above the top edge of the extension typically by way of a bolt or rivet. The other end of each strap is attached to the extension generally proximate its top edge, accordingly the extension hangs from the straps. As is described in greater detail below, the straps inhibit and substantially prevent the extension from being pushed inwardly towards the wearer's head when the extension is subject to a high energy impact, such as from a ballistic projectile or shrapnel. Advantageously, however, the flexible straps buckle and fold when the extension is pushed upwardly thereby permitting, not hindering, the ability of a wearer to tilt his head from side to side or look up when in a prone position.
In preferred variations of the extension, at least a portion of the inside surface of the extension includes a plurality of spaced ridges that extend circumferentially and generally horizontally. The ridges act to prevent the extension from being driven upwardly by bracing against the lower rim of the helmet. Accordingly, a wearer's neck does not become exposed when the extension is subject to a high energy impact. Further, through the interaction between a ridge and the lip during an impact, a portion of the energy or load incident on the extension during the impact is transferred to and dissipated through the helmet.
The term “or” as used in this specification and the appended claims is not meant to be exclusive rather the term is inclusive meaning “either or both”.
References in the specification to “one embodiment”, “an embodiment”, “a preferred embodiment”, “an alternative embodiment” and similar phrases mean that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least an embodiment of the invention. The appearances of the phrase “in one embodiment” in various places in the specification are not necessarily all meant to refer to the same embodiment.
The term “couple” or “coupled” as used in this specification and the appended claims refers to either an indirect or direct connection between the identified elements, components or objects. Often the manner of the coupling will be related specifically to the manner in which the two coupled elements interact.
Directional and/or relationary terms such as, but not limited to, left, right, nadir, apex, top, bottom, vertical, horizontal, back, front and lateral are relative to each other and are dependent on the specific orientation of an applicable element or article, and are used accordingly to aid in the description of the various embodiments and are not necessarily intended to be construed as limiting.
The terms “strap” or “straps” as used herein to refer to the elements connecting the extension to the helmet are intended to include not only straps but any elongated element that is generally flexible, or in other words, has a low resistance to buckling when subject to compressive loads. For instance, as used herein a strap could comprise a multifilament cable.
The term “Kevlar™” as used herein is not intended to be limited in meaning to the fibrous material produced by DuPont of Wilmington, Delaware to which the trademark term typically applies, but is intended to encompass all aramid fibrous materials having similar properties as DuPont's Kevlar™.
The term “ballistic material” as used herein refers to any material in a suitable configuration to resist penetration by ballistic projectiles, shrapnel and other combat related debris.
The main body of the helmet typically comprises a rigid shell 20 that is designed to fit over the top of a wearer's head 22. The shell can be described as being generally hemispherical in shape and configuration, although the shell is actually somewhat oblong and includes side portions that project slightly outwardly and downwardly from the main body portion of the shell to provide both room and protection for the wearer's ears.
The interior cavity formed by the shell is somewhat larger than the head of a wearer. Accordingly, a headband suspension assembly (not illustrated) of conventional construction and configuration is provided to cradle the wearer's head 22 as well as suspend the shell off of the wearer's head a small distance. The headband suspension assembly is typically riveted to the shell although in variations it can be attached to the shell by any suitable means including threaded bolts, snaps and hook and loop material. A chin strap 24 is coupled to the headband suspension assembly. As illustrated in
The shell 20 is typically comprised of a ballistic material, such as but not limited to a Kevlar™ composite. Kevlar™ is a registered trademark of the DuPont Corporation and refers to a high modulus high strength synthetic aramid fiber. Other aramid fibers manufactured by companies other than Dupont Corporation can be used in place of Kevlar™. A typical Kevlar™ composite comprises a plurality of layers of Kevlar™ fabric or unwoven Kevlar™ material that is laminated with a thermoset or thermoplastic resin to impart rigidity to the resulting structure. One type of thermoset resin used in Kevlar™ composite structures and variations of the shell is epoxy. Further, the Kevlar™ fibers can be intermingled with other types of reinforcing fibers such as but not limited to carbon fibers, ultra high strength polyethylene fibers (i.e. Spectra™ produced by Honeywell corporation), liquid crystal fibers (i.e. Vectran™ produced by Celanse Acetate LLC of Charlotte, N.C.), and fiberglass fibers. The shell can also be produced comprising any suitable combination of the aforementioned fibers or other high strength fibers to impart the desired ballistic properties to the resulting shell. The shell can also comprise a metallic material such as steel, which was commonly used in older style military helmets. Other metallic materials, either unreinforced or reinforced with ceramic fibers, can be used as well. It is appreciated that many types of materials can be used in a shell that provides an adequate degree of ballistic protection.
The actual configuration of the shell 20 can vary significantly and the shell illustrated in the figures is to be considered merely exemplary. Shells can vary substantially depending on the intended function of the associated helmet and the conditions to which the wearer is to be subjected. For instance, helmets worn by combat troops typically cover a greater portion of a wearer's head and offer superior ballistic protection when compared to helmets worn by the flight deck crew on an aircraft carrier since the combat troops are much more likely to be subject to situations wherein the helmet might incur a high energy impact.
The generally horseshoe-shaped rigid neck shield 18 freely hangs from the shell and is coupled to the shell by way of a plurality of elongated straps 26. The neck shield is fabricated of the same or similar ballistic materials as the shell, such as but not limited to Kevlar™ and other fiber reinforced composites and metallic materials. The neck shield partially overlaps the shell's back exterior surface and at least portions of the shell's left and shell's right exterior surfaces proximate the bottom rim 28. The shield typically hangs beyond the bottom rim of the helmet's shell a sufficient distance to nearly completely cover the nape 12 of a wearer's neck when worn, as well as a substantial portion of the wearer's sides 14 of the neck. Advantageously, when the wearer tilts his head 22 rearwardly relative to his torso 30, such as when assuming a prone position, the extension is pushed upwardly and does not hinder his visibility (see
The dimensions of the neck shield 18 are sufficiently larger than corresponding dimensions of the shell 20 to facilitate free upwardly movement of the neck shield relative to the shell as best shown in
Referring particularly to
As previously described the neck shield is suspended from the shell and hangs freely therefrom by way of a plurality of flexible straps 26. In the illustrated embodiment as best shown in
In one embodiment the straps are comprised of a woven Kevlar™ material that is not impregnated with a resin and accordingly is relatively flexible. In such a configuration, the strap has extremely good tensile strength and tensile modulus but easily buckles or folds when compressively deformed. In other words, when the shield 18 is pushed upwardly, the straps located proximate the upwardly moving portion of the shield present little resistance to the movement but rather buckle and fold. Accordingly, the wearer's ability to tilt his head rearwardly relative to his torso 30 as shown in
In certain variations, wherein Kevlar™ or another organic fiber strap is utilized, the strap can be coated with a flexible UV opaque material, such as opaque polyurethane or vinyl material. The tensile strength of organic fibers in general and Kevlar™ and other aramid fibers in particular degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation for extended periods of time, although the fibers retain their tensile modulus. Since military helmets are typically worn outdoors, a coating would inhibit the premature degradation of the straps ensuring their viability in critical situations, such as combat.
The top end of each strap is attached or coupled to the helmet using a suitable attachment means such as but not limited to one or more rivets 40, one or more threaded fasteners, a buckle fixedly secured to the shell or integrally formed therein, adhesive bonding, hook and loop connectors and snap connectors. It is appreciated that the strength of the attachments must be of sufficient strength to handle the potential loads generated by an impact without failing. Accordingly, washers 42 sandwich the strap in the variations utilizing a threaded fastener or rivet to more evenly distribute the load transfer from the strap into the shell through the rivet or threaded fastener. The bottom end of each strap is attached or coupled to the shell also using an attachment means such as but not limited to those disclosed above.
In other variations, the straps can be replaced with other suitable connectors that perform in a similar manner to the straps. For instance, rigid telescoping rods can be utilized wherein the sections of the rods retract when subject to an upwardly force but are fully extended when the neck shield 18 is in its fully extended free hanging position. In another variation, articulated linkages can be utilized wherein two or more links of each linkage are fully extended when the neck shield is free hanging and the links pivot relative to each other about their connections with each other when subject to an upwardly force permitting the shield to retract upwardly.
Concerning the geometry of the straps and their respective mounting locations on the shell and the neck shield, the bottom end of each strap is preferably mounted to the neck shield at a location proximate the top edge 44 thereof to help ensure the neck shield hangs generally vertically from the straps. However, the straps must be mounted vertically above a horizontal plane passing through the shields center of gravity for it to hang properly off of the shell. The top end of each strap is coupled and attached to the shell at a mounting location such that the distance between the top edge of the shield and the mounting location is at least as great as the maximum amount of vertical shield retraction. Preferably, the maximum amount of retraction is equal to the vertical distance between the bottom rim of the shell and the bottom edge of the neck shield such that when full retracted the bottom rim and bottom edges are roughly horizontally-aligned with each other. In a helmet designed for use by combat troops, the distance between the bottom rim and bottom edges is typically about 2.5-4.0″ depending on the size of the helmet and the desired amount to protection provided by the helmet.
As described earlier and as illustrated, the neck shield 18 overlaps the portion of the shell 20 proximate the shell's bottom rim 28. The greater amount of overlap, the greater amount of leverage each strap has about the fulcrum of the bottom rim of the shell and the associated horizontally-extending ridge 32 in contact therewith when the neck shield is subject to an impact as shown in
In general, the force of gravity is enough to return the neck shield 18 into its fully extended normal position after having been fully or partially retracted relative to the shell 20. However, in certain variations, one or more biasing mechanisms 46 can be provided to assist in returning the neck shield to its extended position. In one variation, three biasing mechanisms are provided with one each of the left, right and rear sides of the helmet. Referring to
The various preferred embodiments and variations thereof illustrated in the accompanying figures and/or described above are merely exemplary and are not meant to limit the scope of the invention. It is to be appreciated that numerous variations to the invention have been contemplated as would be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art with the benefit of this disclosure. All variations of the invention that read upon the appended claims are intended and contemplated to be within the scope of the invention.
The straps can vary significantly from those illustrated and described herein. For instance, bands that are adjustable in length can be used. The bands can have more than one hole at each end through which the threaded or rivet fastener can be received. Accordingly a user can adjust the amount of neck extension overhang. Numerous other length adjustment mechanisms are possible as well as would be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art with the benefit of this disclosure. Further, the ends of each strap can be reinforced to facilitate a stronger connection with the neck shield and shell respectively. For instance, the strap ends can be encased in a metal ferrule to assist in distributing the load from the strap to the fastener. Further, on variations having biasing mechanisms, the mechanisms can vary substantially in configuration and location. The actual shapes and configurations of the shell and neck extension can vary substantially as well depending on the intended use and required design characteristics of a particular helmet.
In other embodiments of the helmet, the shield can comprise two or more over lapping segments. For instance in one variation, the shield maybe segmented into left and right sections proximate the middle of the helmet's back side. In another variation, the shield could comprise three segments that correspond to the left, right and back sides of the helmet. The segments are overlapped a sufficient amount to prevent gaps from forming therebetween. Additionally, the segments can be coupled to each other via straps or other flexible means. As can be appreciated, each segment is attached to the shell by way of at least two strap assemblies.
While the helmet and associated neck shield described herein relate primarily to combat and/or military use, helmets for other occupations and uses are also contemplated. For instance, a variation of the helmet might be suitable for use by construction workers or workers in any vocation that might have debris flying about. Additionally, the neck shield and its associated hardware (i.e. the straps and fasteners) can be produced and provided separately from the helmet for use in retrofitting current military or civilian helmets.
|Cited Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US1364662 *||Apr 23, 1919||Jan 4, 1921||Wagner Louis G||Protective cap|
|US2374675||Dec 9, 1941||May 1, 1945||Israel L Freedman||Headgear|
|US2888681||Feb 21, 1957||Jun 2, 1959||Huxtable Leonard G||Helmet with combined neck and ear shield|
|US2889555||Feb 21, 1957||Jun 9, 1959||Leonard G Huxtable||Helmet with side shields|
|US3046560||Jul 14, 1960||Jul 31, 1962||Grazia Joseph De||Neck shield for protective helmet|
|US3436760||Mar 25, 1968||Apr 8, 1969||American Safety Equip||Military helmet adapter|
|US3591863||May 19, 1969||Jul 13, 1971||Harry E Richard||Helmet|
|US3668706||Jun 10, 1970||Jun 13, 1972||Willie Velasquez||Shield attachment for safety helmets|
|US3825952||Sep 21, 1973||Jul 30, 1974||Deere & Co||Skirted helmet|
|US3873997||Apr 23, 1973||Apr 1, 1975||Elwyn R Gooding||Cervix guard for protective headgear|
|US4843642||Jun 16, 1987||Jul 4, 1989||Brower Richard A||Combat vehicle crewman helmet|
|US5404590 *||Oct 1, 1993||Apr 11, 1995||Riddell, Inc.||Football helmet motion restrictor|
|US5493734||Nov 30, 1993||Feb 27, 1996||Commonwealth Of Puerto Rico||Neck shield attachment for helmet|
|US6163891||Apr 17, 1998||Dec 26, 2000||Viitalahti; Kari Arto Olavi||Protector for hockey player|
|US7124449 *||Mar 30, 2004||Oct 24, 2006||Gentex Corporation||Protective helmet assembly having lightweight suspension system|
|US20040060100 *||Sep 30, 2002||Apr 1, 2004||Reiterman Donald R.||Neck protector|
|WO2000060970A1 *||Dec 29, 1999||Oct 19, 2000||Pab - Plastika Akrapovic Buzet||Helmet with spherical vizor|
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US8341770||Sep 10, 2010||Jan 1, 2013||Drexel University||Cervical spine protection apparatus and methods of use|
|US8510862||May 18, 2012||Aug 20, 2013||Bauer Hockey, Inc.||Leg pad for a hockey player|
|US8528113||Nov 30, 2012||Sep 10, 2013||Drexal University||Cervical spine protection apparatus and methods of use|
|US8683612||Aug 2, 2013||Apr 1, 2014||Drexel University||Cervical spine protection apparatus and methods of use|
|US8869315||May 18, 2012||Oct 28, 2014||Bauer Hockey, Inc.||Protective athletic garment|
|US8990962||Feb 6, 2014||Mar 31, 2015||Drexel University||Cervical spine protection apparatus and methods of use|
|US9132335||Jul 29, 2013||Sep 15, 2015||Bauer Hockey, Inc.||Leg pad for a hockey player|
|US9243872 *||Jul 8, 2013||Jan 26, 2016||Lineweight Llc||Helmet with ballistic nape protector|
|US9345282||Jul 13, 2012||May 24, 2016||Bauer Hockey, Inc.||Adjustable helmet for a hockey or lacrosse player|
|US20100192290 *||Aug 5, 2010||Husain Abbas M||Neck protection collar|
|US20110060260 *||Sep 10, 2010||Mar 10, 2011||Drexel University||Cervical spine protection apparatus and methods of use|
|US20110145965 *||Aug 1, 2008||Jun 23, 2011||Hirano Trading Company||Bulletproof protector and bulletproof clothes|
|US20140157472 *||Jul 8, 2013||Jun 12, 2014||Lineweight Llc||Helmet with Ballistic Nape Protector|
|U.S. Classification||2/422, 2/468|
|International Classification||A41D13/00, A41D27/26, A42B1/24|
|Cooperative Classification||A42B3/105, F41H1/04|
|European Classification||F41H1/04, A42B3/10B|